My wife and I are considering buying a homestead and have made an appointment with a local real estate agent to visit a potential property. What questions should we have prepared in advance to ask her? What should I be looking for?
Water: Wells, springs, rainwater catchment, quality, quantity, Ponds, storage, tanks, overflow, contaminants from uphill neighbors,
Soil: Past treatments, amendments, chemical, organic, biological, mineral. Composition of soil, sand, silt, clay, biomass. pH, basic soil tests from multiple locations on the farm. Make note of neighbors' behaviors and borders.
Animals: what kind? how long ago and methods of operation. example: chickens in paddock shift system vs a layer house and pen vs free range. Widlife make notes on diversity of critters. pests, predators, rarities. Limitations in species, numbers or methods of raising. Example: some areas allow hens but not roosters because of the noise.
Plants: Overall health of both the wild and planted species. Anything look out of place or too high maintenance? Past growing patterns and methods along with purpose. Was it a diverse homestead for a family use or a mini farm with high input and output? Perennials, annuals, trees, seed crops
House: Heating and cooling, energy systems, location and orientation of house suited for climate? Wood lot if needed? Shade trees if needed? Annual cost to heat/cool? Make notes of where you can keep plants in the house. Sunny windows in winter? Food storage, basement, pantry, outdoor kitchen space, butchering area, capable kitchen.
Land: Building materials, wood, stone, clay, slope, aspect, climate, number of growing days, orientation, grazing space, garden space, play space, room for expansion?
Outbuildings: Any? condition, past use, current use, potential use. Repairs needed (don't underestimate this one), permits for new buildings, limitations.
Neighbors: Anything that flows from their land to yours or vice verse. Noise, smells, views. try to imagine it when all the leaves fall off the trees (if they do that where you are). What crops do they grow? Sprays of any sort? Animals, pests, predators. Some neighbors are happy to lend a hand or a piece of equipment... some are dicks.
Local area: Shops, markets, distances, alternative routes to and from in case of construction or weather. Road conditions determine what you'll need to drive during certain times of the year. Community, competition, jobs, availability of farm items and repairs, veterinarians, Pet and livestock. feed stores, nurseries, blacksmith, auto/tractor mechanics. People who do things on trade or barter. Good to know a guy who will do a small job for a good meal.
That's just a few things that came to mind. I wish I had this list of noise when I bought my place. Wouldn't have changed my mind about buying it, but I would have been more judicious with my time, priorities and money.